MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 1 February) – The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), on Wednesday announced they were terminating the unilateral declaration of ceasefire issued on August 28 last year.
In a joint statement, the CPP Central Committee and the NPA National Operations Command said the unilateral ceasefire ends on 11:59 p.m. of February 10. It added that the government negotiating panel will be given notice Wednesday of the termination by its counterpart in the National Democratic Front (NDF).
The CPP-NPA said it was terminating the unilateral ceasefire because the government “has not complied with its obligation to amnesty and release of political prisoners,” and has “treacherously taken advantage of the unilateral declaration of interim ceasefire to encroach on the territory of the people’s democratic government.”
The rebel group said the release of political prisoners under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees is “a matter of justice and in fulfillment of the promise of President Duterte.”
Last year, Duterte released a number of political prisoners who participated in the peace negotiations as NDF consultants.
“The unilateral ceasefire declaration was issued on the mutual understanding with the GRP that such releases will take effect within 60 days of August 28. Such was the context why the GRP panel approached the NDFP towards the end of October seeking an extension of the CPP/NPA’s declaration with a promise that around 200 political prisoners were set to be released,” the statement said.
Duterte, however, rejected the demand for the release of the remaining political prisoners saying the government will lose all its bargaining chips if he did it.
The CPP-NPA further accused the government of occupying at least 500 barrios which are within the authority of the revolutionary government. It said these areas are within 164 towns and 43 provinces of the country.
It said government forces have continued to “engage in hostile actions, provocations or movements, surveillance and other offensive operations that are labelled as ‘peace and development’, ‘civil-military’, ‘peace and order’, ‘anti drugs campaign’, ‘medical missions’ or ‘law enforcement’.”
It added these actions have resulted in harassment of barrio residents and other human rights violations, and affected the people’s livelihood.
The statement cited the firefight on January 21 in Makilala, North Cotabato that resulted in the death of eight soldiers and one NPA rebel.
“What the reported skirmishes indicate is that the GRP military and police have become even more aggressive after their ‘success’ in the Makilala, North Cotabato incident where they violated their own ceasefire by mounting a day-long offensive against an NPA unit and attacked the latter in its encampment, killing a Red fighter. It also means that given the AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP)’s increasing incursions and attacks on communities, the NPA has been obliged to take an active defense posture to defend and protect the communities and its forces,” the NPA said on Tuesday in a statement posted on the NDF website.
Talk and fight
The CPP-NPA clarified it will continue to support the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations within the framework of The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992.
“In our experience and in the experience of other peoples, it is possible to negotiate while fighting until the substantive agreements are forged to address the roots of the armed conflict and lay the basis for a just and lasting peace.
“We oppose the use of interim ceasefires as basis for a protracted or indefinite ceasefire without substantial benefit for the people and their revolutionary forces and for laying aside peace negotiations on substantive issues such as social, economic and political reforms. Such is tantamount to the capitulation and pacification of the revolutionary people and forces,” it said.
The CPP-NPA ordered its units to “take initiative and more vigorously carry out active defense in order to defend the people and revolutionary forces” to “frustrate and punish AFP-CAFGU-PNP interior patrol operations, AFP psywar operations under Oplan Kapayapaan, AFP units occupying barangays and communities and enemy armed offensives posing as anti-drug and anti-crime operations.”
It said that after the expiration of its unilateral ceasefire, all NPA units must carry out offensives against the military, paramilitary and police units, death squads” of the government, as well as, “drug traffickers and operators of the drug trade and large-scale gambling, private armies and private armed groups of warlords, local tyrants as well as spies.”
In a statement Wednesday, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said “we are dismayed with the announcement of New People’s Army (NPA) spokesman Ka Oris withdrawing their unilateral ceasefire effective February 10.”
Ka Oris, nom de guerre of NDF Mindanao spokesperson Jorge Madlos, announced online the CPP-NPA’s decision to end the unilateral ceasefire.
“This cancellation came just after some progress we made in the third round of peace talks in Rome where negotiating panels from both sides agreed to further discuss a bilateral ceasefire in The Netherlands sometime end of this month,” Dureza said, but added, “We respect their decision.”
He said his office “will respectfully recommend to President Rodrigo R. Duterte that the government continues to maintain and uphold the unilateral ceasefire to sustain the peace in the communities where our people desire to live in peace.”
“This will provide an enabling and conducive environment to the on-going peace talks. At the same, we will recommend that government forces continue to be relentless in their campaign to protect the civilians from harm and terrorism,” he said.
He, however, acknowledged that “the situation, with various incidents on the ground, had become untenable to sustain without the guidelines and protocols that a bilateral ceasefire provides.”
“This gives more impetus and encouragement to our earnest task of forging a sustainable ceasefire agreement,” he added.
The armed struggle being waged by the CPP-NPA is considered Asia’s longest running communist-led insurgency.
The CPP was founded on December 26, 1968 by a handful of remnants from the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas. Three months after, the party organized the NPA, which spread nationwide and gained momentum during the martial law era.
The group first entered into peace negotiations with the Philippine government in 1986. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno / MindaNes)